A bit of contrast in the land of smiles -

22 March 2015 : The dream team (Mmo, Danz, René and Laure) leave for Tamatave (Taomasina) this morning at 8H30. The Malagasy-Tours team worked yesterday to prepare the vehicle. We have loaded camping gear, the shopping we did in Tana, our luggage and a newly purchased generator.
This trip of about 350 km, will enable us to reconnoiter the land route that Serge will take in about ten days. We will look for places to say and to camp and it becomes obvious that even though this eastern part of the country is more heavily populated than the western, we will surely do a lot of camping. Sites are not easy to find because the vegetation is dense and the space left free at the road side is already occupied by small wooden houses on stilts on the coast, but before you get there, the mountain and rivers don’t leave any flat, accessible spots for a camp site. Parking spaces for heavy trucks and container vehicles are non-existent and if one of them has a breakdown it stays at the roadside with only a red triangle to act as warning. The national route 2, which we are taking, is the only route between Tamatave, the biggest port in the country, and Tana. All freight travels via this route.
We leave the cool weather of Tana (at an altitude of 1200 to 1400 meters) with its pollution and heavy traffic. On this road there are hardly any cars and in the villages we cross the population uses mostly bus taxis or they go by foot. I realize that Serge will not be alone on this road when he runs.
We also discover the seasonal fruit because in Madagascar what you find is fresh. For example, you won’t find lychee because they are picked around mid November and the harvest lasts only one month. All the fruit arrives at the same time. This is the period when bananas are harvested, as well as Rambutan, guava and other fruit I have never seen before. Looking back, another thing that stuck me is not to have seen huge orchards. The mountain and the countryside are not divided into lots by fences or barbed wires and consequently, I don’t know to whom the fruit trees along the road belong. They seem to have landed there by chance, not to have been planted. We also see small rice paddies on the hillsides, I who thought that rice only grew in wetlands.
Another striking thing is the impressive number of churches : catholic, protestant, evangelical and various sects. Being Sunday, most of the population is wearing fine clothes to go to church and the children are carrying prayer books. There are smiles on all the faces. Many of the people live without water or electricity, without cars but it does not keep the Malagasy from beaming.
The voice of Serge is also beaming at 17H30, just as we have finally found a camp site just after Tamatave, when he tells me that he had a visit from a Malagasy fishing boat, which had been told of his presence by the CROSS of Le Port at Reunion Island, and came to have news of the galley slave. The meeting lasted 30 minutes, everyone spoke French and everyone took photos. I hope that Serge thought to record the moment for posterity, he who never thinks of opening his computer and does not answer texts. I don’t know if a marine “bear” exists but Serge must be one.
This evening there is paella on the menu, as well as a good sleep which will take him to the midpoint of his voyage, i.e., 195 nautical miles covered since Le Port. He has the same distance to go to reach the Island of Sainte Marie. In a week, Serge should disembark from his ship, Middleton. Before long I will tell you why this boat is named Middleton.
Here are the messages from Michel, sent to Serge – But when does he sleep?
Sent: Monday, 23 March 2015 04H26
To: sergegirart@wanadoo.fr
Subject: Run row
Serge has passed the midpoint, super
He is back on heading, a bit more to the North perfect, the drift at night is due to the NE current, nothing serious, it was planned.
See you, Michel
Sent: Monday 23 march 2015 05H23
To: sergegirard@wanadoo.fr
Cc: Maxime.Debert@sat-ocean.com; Xavier.Vigan@sat-ocean.com
Subject: run row
Serge is at mid point, on a perfect route toward St. Marie, compensating his heading perfectly depending on the current variations. Arrival planned 29/03 between 15 and 20H00 UTC
Midpoint passed 195 miles covered.
Wind E 10-15knots
Swells ESE 1.4mètre 10secondes
Current NE 0.3 a 0.5knots
barometric pressure 1014hpa
Wing E 10-14knots
Swells SSW 1.5mètre 11secondes
Current NE 0.6 a 0.4 knots
barometric pressure 1013hpa
Winds ESE 11-15 knots
Swells SSW 1.6mètre 12secondes
Current ENE 0.3 a 0.2 knots
Barometric pressure 1013hpa